Between 1988 and 1994, U.S. experts gave blood-lead tests to 30,000 randomly selected Americans, from infants to the elderly, then followed up with people in 2011.
Lead was added to petrol until the 1990s to boost engine compression, and was also widely used to improve the performance of household paint before being banned in the United States in 1978 and the European Union in 1992 "after concerns over the effects it was having on the environment and children's brains", adds the paper.
"This study suggests that estimating the contribution of environmental lead exposure is essential to understand trends in cardiovascular disease mortality and develop comprehensive strategies to prevent cardiovascular disease", they concluded.
The findings revealed a link between low-level exposure and increased risk of premature death. A recent study tells about the health hazards of lead exposure for the people's health. Of these, 1,801 were from CVD and 988 were from heart disease.
The study, which was published in The Lancet Public Healthjournal this week, tracked more than 14,000 adults over a period of about 20 years. Lanphear and his team sought to determine how exposure to lead contributes to all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality in the U.S.
From an analysis of more than 14,000 people in the US, researchers found that exposure to low lead levels from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s was linked to a higher risk of cardiovascular and all-cause death over the next 20 years.
At the outset, the average level of lead found in the participants' blood was 2.7 µg/dL, but ranged from less than 1 to 56 µg/dL.
People with higher lead exposure were 37-percent more likely to die prematurely from any cause.
These results remained after accounting for a number of possible confounding factors, including participants' age, sex, body mass index (BMI), diet, smoking status, and alcohol intake.
"Previous studies of cardiovascular disease mortality in lead-exposed populations have been criticized because they did not account for other risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease mortality, such as cadmium", Bruce P. Lanphear, MD, of the department of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues wrote. For example, they point out that their study relied on a single blood test from each subject at baseline, so they were unable to determine the "effect of further lead exposure".
Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Philip Landrigan, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, USA, says: "A recurrent theme in lead poisoning research has been the realization that lead has toxic effects on multiple organ systems at relatively low levels of exposure previously thought to be safe..."
Of that figure, exposure to the toxic metal may be an "important, but largely overlooked" risk factor behind the 256,000 annual cardiovascular disease deaths in the country, the authors found. A key conclusion to be drawn from this analysis is that lead has a much greater impact on cardiovascular mortality than previously recognized...
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